Journal Staff Writer
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — At a ceremony beside the Blackstone River Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined the congressional delegation to formally award three Rhode Island communities more than $1 million in brownfields grants that will be used to clean up contaminated sites and train workers for environmental positions.
The event was held at Central Falls Landing, a property that had once been home to a manufacturing plant and an auto repair business, but is now largely vacant. A grant of $200,000 will be used to remove arsenic and other dangerous material from the waterfront parcel that leads to a boat launch on the river.
Mayor James Diossa talked of the huge potential for the site, calling it “one of our city’s goldmines.” He said Central Falls has struggled to redevelop its post-industrial areas.
“We’re not able to get them developed very quickly because of the remediation that they need, but through these funds we’ll be able to accomplish that, which ties into economic development,” he said.
Indeed, U.S. Sen Jack Reed said that for every dollar that has been put into the brownfields program since its creation in 1995 — some $14 billion so far — there has been a return of $18 in economic development.
“We all understand, growing up in Rhode Island, that this is literally where the Industrial Revolution began,” he said. “That left a legacy, a legacy of innovation, of opportunity, manufacturing, progress, but it also left a legacy of environmental impacts.”
“And the brownfields program is the way that we restore and renew these properties. In the process of doing that, we put people to work and more importantly we set the stage for further development, which means long-term jobs and long-term opportunities for Rhode Islanders.”
He and the other members of the delegation first announced the $1.2 million in competitive brownfields grants to Rhode Island last May. Along with the grant to Central Falls, the other recipients are:
— In Providence, the I-195 Redevelopment Commission will get $200,000 to clean up Parcel 30 of the I-195 Redevelopment District, also known as “The Link.” Before Route 195 was built in the 1950s, a jewelry manufacturer contaminated the site with volatile organic compounds.
— In Pawtucket, the Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corporation will get $600,000 to clean three parcels on Branch and East streets. The properties, which are now vacant, were used for residences from the 1800s through the 1970s. They are contaminated with metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
— In Providence, Groundwork Providence will receive $192,300 to train unemployed and underemployed Rhode Islanders for environmental remediation jobs.
Over the past two decades, Rhode Island has received $34.7 million through the brownfields program that has been used to clean up 253 sites, said Curt Spalding, regional administrator for the EPA.
Originally published in the 8/14/2015 edition of the Providence Journal - Link to full story here.